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Silver “Jumping” Carp Confirmed In Pickwick
By Mike Bolton
Posted Friday March 2 2018, 9:38 AM
Silver carp, shown here jumping in the Illinois River, have been confirmed in Pickwick Lake.
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Silver carp, that jumping, invasive fish that has astounded millions on the Internet and on television news reports as they leap from the water behind running boats, has been discovered in Pickwick Lake.

The carp made their way into many states thanks to accidental releases along the Mississippi River, but it is best documented in the Illinois River. There, the hum of outboard motors causes the carp to jump by the thousands. The problem in the Illinois River is so serious that some fishermen have been forced to mount chain-link barriers on their boats to protect themselves from flying fish. Many fishermen have been injured after being hit in the face by 10-lb.-plus fish.

“If you Google ‘silver carp,’ you will see images and videos of these clouds of jumping fish. Those are silver carp,” says Nick Nichols, the chief of Fisheries for WFF.

Nichols says there is no doubt that the fish have reached the Tennessee River. They likely did so by navigating tributaries and locks after escaping into the Mississippi River from private ponds in Arkansas and Mississippi during big floods in the 1990s. Biologists say fishermen first started reporting silver carp in Pickwick Lake last year, and netting surveys confirmed they were correct.

Nichols said the videos of the jumping fish may look comical, but they are no laughing matter. When the silver carp take a foothold, they decimate the food chain, and native species pay the price.

Nichols says the carp are the waterborne equivalent of the feral swine that are plaguing our state.

“They’re like the feral hogs of the water,” Nichols said.

He said the silver carp are in Pickwick Lake in small numbers at the moment, and his department is looking into how it might prevent their spread. The fish have proven they can navigate locks, so Wheeler, Wilson and Guntersville lakes could eventually have silver carp, too.

“It has already been established that there is no such thing as eradicating them,” Nichols said. “Right now, biologists in Mississippi and Tennessee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey are trying to locate the leading edge of these fish.

“There has been some research into erecting barriers to prevent their movement, but the only hope to controlling the numbers seems to be through commercial fishing. Both Kentucky and Illinois are both active in trying to encourage commercial fishing for them.”

Some bowfishermen in Illinois have made a game of trying to shoot them out of the air with arrows, and others have contests where they try to snatch the fish out of the air with nets. Fun maybe, but gillnetting is the only way to catch any significant numbers of the fish, Nichols said.

Nichols says if there is any good news, it is that the Pickwick Lake silver carp captured and tested by fishery biologists show that all of the fish were hatched in 2016. That means that they haven’t been in Pickwick Lake that long. He said there is no evidence that those fish spawned a class of fish in 2017.

The bad news is that it is too early to tell if those fish will spawn in the future.

Nichols explained that silver carp are filter feeders and thus dine on the zooplankton and phytoplankton on the bottom of the food chain. By doing so, they’re competing with every other species of fish for food. They are taking the primary food away from bream and shad, the main foods for bass and other species.

A recent study on the Yazoo River in Mississippi found in some backwater areas that silver carp have decimated the native populations of fish. Silver carp now make up about 90 percent of the fish found there.
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